What is the point of this story?
What information pertains?
The thought that life could be better
Is woven indelibly into our hearts and our brains
Evan Mandery won me over immediately by opening his latest novel with the above quote from Paul Simon's 'Train In The Distance'. It's one of my favourite lyrics, one that I've often heard rattling around my brain even when I've not listened to the song in ages. It pretty much sums up the human condition - if the human condition is a general dissatisfaction with one's lot.
The high concept of Q is pretty much unbeatable. The novel begins when the unnamed narrator meets Q (Quentina Elizabeth Deveril), the love of his life. They both fall head over heels and marriage seems inevitable... until our hero is visited by a future version of himself with a grim prophecy: marry Q and both your lives will be marred by unspeakable tragedy. Initially reluctant to accept this warning, the narrator is eventually convinced that breaking off their relationship will be best for them both. And so his life continues without Q... until he's visited by a different future version of himself with a new piece of life-changing advice. Each time he follows his future self's instructions, it's not long before another one pops up to set him off in a different direction entirely.
It's an excellent premise filled with comic possibility, and the final third of the book delivers upon this premise with both humour and heartache. Unfortunately, the first half does tend to ramble as the author goes off on the occasional entirely unnecessary tangent. You may want to skip the chapters taken from the hero's attempt to write an alternate history of Sigmund Freud's life: they do follow the book's overall theme but add nothing to the story itself and reek a little too much of vanity project. Some of the meandering comedy was also a little too faux-Woody Allen for my tastes: there were times I wanted to scream at Mandery to stop trying so bloody hard to be funny. But writing humour is the trickiest of talents to master and you may find these sections hilarious. It's a very subjective business, being funny.
All that said, I'd still hugely recommend Q for it's ingenious plot and the breathtaking drive of its final hundred pages. If you're a time travel buff like me, you'll want to know how it ends.